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Wikipedia Discredits Open Source, Data Tsunami and the Lenovo Laptop Phone

By Rob Enderle TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
Mar 12, 2007 4:00 AM PT

Don't you get a sense that we are on the edge of some big changes? Whether it is the PC market, the consumer electronics market, the server market -- anyone notice Sun is actually getting stronger? -- the network market, or the world in general, we seem to be seeing a lot of change all of a sudden. Clearly, we can't talk about all of that this week, but we can chat about a few things.

Wikipedia Discredits Open Source, Data Tsunami and the Lenovo Laptop Phone

First, and a little off topic, if you are into cars you have to see this video of the Bugatti Veyron going 252 mph. Man, if there was ever lust in my heart for an impractical car, I have it now. Of course, if you like a little reality, this is what happens when you try it in the rain. That' s a US$1.3 million car.

Back on topic. Wikipedia may have recently provided us with the strongest example yet of a huge misconception surrounding open source. In fact, Wikipedia has been fueling that misconception for some time, and that is that open source can be trusted. Bet I have your attention now.

IDC just recently completed a study that says that long before Al Gore's prediction of all of us returning to the polluted sea comes true, we will be buried in data and may want to get ahead of that problem.

Finally, Lenovo did something really forward-looking with the leading VoIP phone company that suggests, at some future point, that your laptop may be your phone. Take that iPhone.

Wikipedia: When open source Attacks

Wikipedia just had a bit of a train wreck. It seems that in an investigative report, it was found out that an editor who said he had a PhD and was a professor of religion had actually flunked out of college.

To make matters worse, he was actually hired by Wikia Inc. Evidently, after the story broke, he was fired. Interestingly enough, the coverage in Wikipedia is actually rather good.

We've known for some time that Wikipedia has had some quality issues. Nicholas Carr went into this in some detail a few years back and pointed out several examples of horrid quality on the site, using Bill Gates' and Jane Fonda's pages as examples.

Wikipedia does have a policy on this, but using my own page as an example, I don't think that policy is actually working very well.

It is interesting to note that you evidently can't be a source on your own life. It has been a good place to go to see what names folks have been calling me since I started this column, but it also does seem to intentionally mislead.

Of course, John Seigenthaler had a far worse problem, so I'm not complaining that much. It helps me make the point that open source can't be trusted better than anything else I can easily turn to.

At the core of open source is the belief that mysterious others assure the quality of an open source product. However, few actually have the skills required to do such a review. If, in the case of an open source encyclopedia -- where there should be a lot of experts -- you still can't trust the content, the people or the quality, then how can you trust that open source works where such a review is less likely?

Now, you certainly can test the product -- just like you do any other -- but that is what you would do with a proprietary product as well. It challenges the underlying principle that you can trust an open source effort to be self-policing.

I think this reminds us that just because we want something to be true -- whether it is believing in your favorite politician, company or relative -- that doesn't make it true. With open source, as with any complex product, if you aren't doing the quality control yourself, or if it isn't being done by a real person you know will do it, then you are a fool to presume the quality is where you need it to be.

These Wikipedia examples showcase that open source in and of itself does not assure quality, and they do so in a way that even someone who can't read code can understand.

EMC and the Data Tsunami

In a report produced by IDC and sponsored by EMC, we got the first look at what may appear to many to be the end of the world.

Some of the numbers are almost impossible to comprehend. For instance, we have evidently created 161 exabytes of data -- or the equivalent of 12 stacks of books that reach to the moon. This could be kind of handy if the moon decides to drop in for a quick visit.

Yet it's not how much data we have created but how much we will create over the next few years that is scary. By 2010, our data output is estimated to expand six times, and someone is going to have to secure, manage and store this stuff. I can speak to this personally, as my own home server is approaching two terabytes of storage, suggesting it is time to clean out my Tivo TV and movie library.

EMC is using this report to credibly establish itself as the fourth big power in the tech market. With the decline of IBM, we only have three major powers now that cut across the industry: Microsoft for software, Intel for hardware and Cisco for networks. EMC is trying to add a fourth pillar with itself at the top. That pillar is information management, and there is no other firm that has grown into the space as well.

It is interesting to note that EMC, like Microsoft, seems expert at partnering. One of its most powerful partnerships is with Microsoft itself.

Of all the vendors I've worked with, EMC is the only one that seems to get that Microsoft only creates about 80 percent of a good solution, and the opportunity is both to finish the last 20 percent and to manage the customer relationship so the customer never sees the complexity of the partnership itself. It's actually rather brilliant.

EMC has also gained a lot of its size though acquisition and has a number of keystone properties like RSA and VMware -- both mindshare leaders in their respective segments.

If the IDC report is accurate and EMC continues down this path, it is likely that Microsoft, Cisco and Intel will have company shortly. In fact, as I think about it, that may actually already be true today.

Lenovo Laptop Phone

I was up visiting Lenovo last week, and things seem to be going so much better now that it has finally yanked out its 20-year-old IT systems and put in place replacements that are current and actually talk to each other.

Shortly before I arrived, Lenovo announced a partnership with Avaya, the leading supplier of VoIP telephone systems (there is actually one place where Cisco isn't number one yet). What will result is kind of cool if you think about it.

For me, it is also somewhat ironic, because my first competitive analysis job was with telephones, and much of what Avaya is doing with Lenovo echoes prototypes we were building in the 80s at IBM -- but never got out the door. I was one of the few that got to use the technology daily, though, and I've missed it badly ever since.

Back then, if I got a call from another employee, the system would bring that person's profile up on my screen, and I could look at my voice mail messages on that same screen, as well as quickly see the calls I had missed. In some cases, we can do that on our cell phones today -- but few can do this with their office phones.

By using a VoIP system and connecting it to a robust client running on a laptop, I can not only get information on other employees at my desk, but also get profile information on anyone the company or I have information on -- and I can take the call anyplace I'm connected to a network.

In other words, whether I'm at work, at home, or connected on a Hawaiian beach drinking a Corona, I can sound just like I'm in the office and have the critical information I need right at my finger tips.

While it is hard to believe this will ever make the cell phone obsolete -- and the iPhone is probably safe -- it could put a crimp in the traditional space that RIM (Research In Motion) occupies, because the solution is arguably better in terms of overall usability. Plus, if you have to carry a laptop anyway, it may make the BlackBerry redundant. That's only fair, because the BlackBerry has been trying to make the notebook computer redundant for awhile.

One interesting closing thought, is that Lenovo actually makes one of the nicest looking (won a Bronze design award in 2005) smartphones on the market -- and it has GPS, TV, MP3, camera, large display -- two years before we even heard of the iPhone. (It actually kind of looks like the iPhone, but Apple would never copy, would it?) You just can't get it here.

Maybe Apple has something to worry about after all.

Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.

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Digital River - Talk to the Experts